Your friends all boast about new PRs, while workmates are currently chatting over WOD strategies at lunch. Really, what even is an Rx anyway? It seems like you’re the only guy in the world who isn’t into CrossFit…
Until now that is. Your curiosity has got the best of you and now it’s time to try it out for yourself. Go toes-to-bar into the world of elite fitness with these challenging CrossFit workouts for beginners.
What is CrossFit?
Depending on who you ask, you’ll get two responses; the first one is that CrossFit is a cult. The second is that CrossFit is the be-all and end-all of fitness – in fact, it is the meaning of life itself. As you can imagine, both groups are currently in a bitter feud mostly fought on a battlefield called social media…
We suggest taking what both parties say with a giant pinch of pre-workout.
The reality is, CrossFit’s much simpler than that…
In a few words; CrossFit is a branded fitness regimen built on a cross-training foundation. Workouts beg, borrow, and steal from multiple disciplines, with each one designed to test all kinds of physical fitness.
CrossFit’s website says it’s a safe and effective lifestyle, centered around community and health. But what really sets CrossFit apart from other regimens is variety.
It’s sort of like a swiss army knife for fitness. Most workouts of the day (WODs) bring a brand-new challenge and are assembled using functional movements.
According to CrossFit’s creators, these are designed to prepare athletes for everyday life. One day you’re crushing power cleans and ring dips. Another it’s burpees over bar and kettlebell swings. If you’re a serious specialist who doesn’t like to mix it up… maybe walk away now.
Is CrossFit safe for beginners?
But, what about beginners? Are men new to the art of Olympic lifting expected to snatch 240 lb above their heads on day one?
They shouldn’t, no. A good coach should know exactly how to scale down their workouts for new guys. So, yes, CrossFit can definitely be safe if you’re sensible about things.
Brand new starters shouldn’t be pressured into smashing PR’s from day one either. But if you find yourself a great affiliate with equally attentive coaches, you’ll make your mark safely from the start.
Apparently, a ticking countdown clock can even unleash the competitive beast inside the most laid-back men. Trust us when we say we’ve seen it first-hand.
This is where CrossFit can be dangerous. As much as it’s glorified for positively transforming lives, throwing barbells around for time has hurt a fair few people. Just like all sports CrossFit does carry certain risks… But there are things you can do to stay safe.
- Concentrate on form over weight
- Add load progressively and slowly
- Always warm up and cool down
- Don’t hit a move you’re not confident in
- Find a box (gym) with a proper affiliated coach
Unless you’ve never chalked up and grabbed a barbell, you knew this already. Finding your own form of elite physical fitness relies on you staying healthy.
Popular CrossFit exercises
CrossFit has one goal in mind and that’s to make you as physically fit as possible. Funnily enough, to say they call their gym a ‘box’, workouts aren’t always about the most conventional of gym moves.
Instead, CrossFit is all about training and pushing the 10 fundamental physical qualities. That’s your; cardio, strength, stamina, endurance, speed, flexibility, balance, power, agility, accuracy, and coordination – if you’re interested.
As you can picture in your head, you won’t hit all these targets with a stereotypical bro-split. Neither will you increase your cardio capacity to new heights with a 12-week powerlifting program. But… that doesn’t mean your WOD won’t feature elements from these things.
Expect to find movements and exercises extracted from different disciplines. Here are a list of popular CrossFit exercises and their respected schools of fitness:
- Cardio & Stamina – Running, biking, swimming, walking, and jumping rope.
- Olympic lifting – Clean, snatch, and jerk.
- Powerlifting & strength – Squat, deadlift, and bench press.
- Gymnastics – Rope climbing, ring dips and pull-ups, handstands, and handstand walks.
- Calisthenics – Pull-ups, chin-ups, muscle-ups, dips, burpees, crunches, push-ups, toes-to-bar, squats, and single-leg squats.
- Strongman – Farmer walks, and yoke carry.
- Other functional training – Kettlebell swings, wall-balls, sledgehammer swings, tyre flips, sled pushes, dumbbell Oly lift variations, etc.
If you head over to the chalkboard of your closest CrossFit class, you might see something different. Coaches are always finding new ways to challenge their athletes.
Not knowing what WOD awaits drums a buzz some CrossFit fanatics lace up their MetCon’s for. Throw down a strong coffee beforehand and it’s almost like gameday, which by all accounts is why so many ex-athletes flock to the box.
Wait… We’re here for you, though. So, to help you dip your toe into the CrossFit culture we’ve brought you a weeks-worth of workouts (sorry, WODs) fit for beginners.
Feel free to rinse and repeat the cycle for as long as you like. Just try to include a days’ rest or two between each one.
Day one – Baseline
Duration: One round for time
Equipment: Rower, barbell, & skipping rope (or kettlebell).
Push yourself to complete this baseline workout in the fastest time possible. CrossFit uses challenges like this among others to check your current level of physical fitness.
What do you need to do? Set a stopwatch going and hit STOP the moment you finish your final rep… this is your baseline score. One day you’ll look back at that number and remember how it all started.
- 500 m row
- 40 air squats
- 30 sit-ups
- 20 push-ups
- 10 pull-ups
Now, when we said we’d got your back as a beginner we weren’t kidding. This workout is fully scalable to suit any fitness level.
How to scale the Baseline
The big one beginner’s struggle to dial-in is pull-ups. So, to counteract this, we advise negative pull-ups. Simply jump up, grab the bar, and then lower your weight down.
This is actually easier because your muscles can handle greater amounts of eccentric loading (getting longer) than contractual (shortening). Alternatively, loop a resistance band over the bar and step your knee or foot into it… Just make sure to grab the bar first.
Another movement that makes working out tough for new starters is push-ups. If for some reason you’re unable to complete a full push-up, go from your knees.
Perform the same movement in your upper-body but with your knees on the ground. This will really reduce the amount of resistance going through your arms, chest, and core, ultimately making the movement easier.
Day two – The AMRAP
Duration: 15 minutes
Equipment: Barbell w/ bumper plates & skipping rope (or kettlebell)
CrossFit loves abbreviations. It doesn’t do well for their cultish status, mind you, but it’s infectious. In a world where time matters; saying AMRAP instead of as many reps as possible leaves more seconds for, you know, actual reps…
Complete as many reps as you can within 15 minutes. Keep track of your progress on your phone by marking off finished sets and/or rounds.
- 10 barbell deadlifts
- 10 push press
- 8 barbell lunges (4+4)
- 30 skips
How to scale the AMRAP
Those who need something lower impact can swap skips for kettlebell swings. If this is something you’ll be doing, opt for 15 swings over 30 skips.
You can scale the swing one step further by going for the Russian variation too. Creating enough momentum to bring the bell to chest height has less impact on the shoulders than going overhead.
While CrossFit usually calls for the American overhead version, the RKBS is an accepted and encouraged form of scaling. We suggest it for office workers new to kettlebell training.
Day three – Halved Helen
Duration – Three rounds for time
Equipment – Kettlebell & pull-up bar (& rower if scaling)
Apparently, something that leaves you gasping in a puddle of sweat needs a name. That’s according to the creators of CrossFit anyway… So, to stay true to their word, they named some of their simple but savage benchmark workouts after women.
Hence why we’ve gone ahead and halved Helen. It’s not that we don’t think you could handle her, but this is a beginner workout week. If you’re feeling like you could crush this WOD double-time try the full thing next time around.
Three rounds for time:
- 200 m run
- 11 kettlebell swings
- 6 pull-ups
How to scale the Halved Helen
Running not on the agenda for your knees? Instead, switch out the pavement pounding for a round of rowing. Alternatively, set about the gym floor for a 400 m walk.
Again, just the same as in the previous workout feel free to use a Russian kettlebell variation. Going no higher than the chest creates less likelihood of impingement in the shoulder joint. If you’re one of the many guys with rough rotator cuffs this is a better starting block.
Finally, if you’ve never once felt the wind rush beneath your chin as it sails over a bar… don’t panic. Hit jumping pull-ups instead by leaping up to the bar, catching your weight, then descending slowly. If that’s not for you, place your foot or knee in a resistance band looped around the bar.
I’m ready for a full Helen!
By now you know the score. Perform three rounds of the following exercise to time…
- 400 m run
- 21 kettlebell swings
- 12 pull-ups
Once you’ve become a regular in the box you might want to start completing WODs Rx. This is the recommended weight given by CrossFit officials, which you’ll need to handle if you compete. For Helen, the Rx kettlebell should be 24 kg.
Day 4 – Mobility
Duration – 20-30 minutes
Equipment – Yoga mat, mobility mat, or soft flooring, & resistance band
CrossFit workouts are hardcore and if not managed well can wreck the body. Yet, how do so many athletes continue to make it to the box day after day, year after year? Fortunately, because CrossFit is a relatively new breed of fitness, they’re not so old school.
A lot of athletes take time out of their day or week to work on mobility. Believe it or not, freeing up your range of motion and increasing mobility can enhance athletic performance.
You’re only as strong as your weakest link and mobility helps to keep them from breaking. Not only that but increasing range of motion creates additional time under tension. This part is vitally important for boosting muscular hypertrophy – size gains.
Breathe through your nose and really settle into these stretches and movements.
- Shoulder circles front – 20 each arm
- Shoulder circles back – 20 each arm
- Resistance band shoulder dislocations – 2 x 10
- Sumo squat – 1 minute/rest/1 minute
- Thread the needle shoulder stretch – 2 minutes each side
- Baby pose – 2 minutes
- Down dog – 2 minutes
- Forward lunge – 2 minutes each leg
- Pigeon stretch – 2 minutes each leg
- Lay completely flat on the ground for 3 minutes while concentrating on your breath
You’re done. Now, doesn’t everything feel just that little bit better?
Final lift on CrossFit workouts for beginners
CrossFit is a varied, functional fitness regimen that’s taken the fitness world by storm. Over the past few years it’s become one of the biggest types of training around, bringing everyone from office workers to hardcore athletes into it’s fold.
There’s no denying that the workouts can be hardcore and brutal. A countdown timer and crowd can bring the competitive animal out of some guys, which is why CrossFit has a reputation for being far from easy.
But, like anything, people focus too much on the extremes. Walk into a real grass-roots box and you’ll see men of all ages, working out at every intensity.
CrossFit says that all their workouts should be scalable. So, even the greenest beginner can get chalked up and stuck in if they want too. If the coach is worth his or her weight, they’ll know how to do this. But beginners will most likely be taken through a set series of WODs until they have their form and technique nailed.
So, what are you waiting for really? Take these four workouts for beginners and make them your own. Chop, change, and restyle their components into something that challenges you.
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